Athletics, academics go together for SHS grad

Published 10:27 am Friday, June 13, 2014

COURTLAND—For Southampton High School’s Hayden Spalding, mixing sports and the classroom is only natural.

Hayden Spalding of Franklin is as comfortable in the classroom as on the field. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Hayden Spalding of Franklin is as comfortable in the classroom as on the field. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

The 18-year-old star short-stop, who is going to finish with a 5.11 GPA, found out that he was going to be the valedictorian about a month ago.

“I was just kind of proud of myself, and I also felt kind of blessed to have the opportunity to be valedictorian,” the Franklin resident said. “It was definitely competitive — any one of the top five could have snatched it up. It was all about the classes you took.

“I had to defend it from my friends, too.”

He’s also following in his mom’s footsteps, as she was valedictorian when she graduated from Galax High School in Western Virginia.

“My mom actually wanted me to use her speech from when she was a valedictorian,” he said of his mother, Becky Spalding. “But I wanted to do it on my own, start a new one.”

As far as his speech, he said he’s ready. He will present it Saturday at 10 a.m. in the SHS gym.

“I am just thankful and blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “I will be glad when the speech is over, I think, but it is time to try out something different and see what it is like.”

Spalding said he felt like participating in athletics helped him in the classroom, and vice versa.

“I kind of meshed the two together because they were both important to me,” he said. “I wanted to set the example that it’s cool to be smart and athletic. Being both leads to doing good things.”

And he did do good things, getting a scholarship to play at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, a school that only accepts 6.8 percent of applicants and is a top 15 National Liberal Arts College according to the U.S. News and World Report.

“Last year, I had some pretty long talks with my dad [Harry Spalding], thinking about where I can play, and what school I should be going to,” he said. “I was looking at the Ivy League schools and the service academies and everything just sort of fell in place at Navy.”

To get into Navy, you not only need a great GPA, strong athletics and a letter from a congressman, you’ve also got to be involved in your community — and Spalding is active in the Leaders Club at the YMCA, plus he’s also helped with youth baseball camps at the school and in the community.

Going off to college is something he is looking forward to.

“I’m looking forward to baseball, academics and then kind of meeting new friends,” he said. “I’ve been to alumni meeting and dinners, and one thing they keep bringing up is how the friendships you make at the naval academy are like no other.”

Spalding said he was impressed with the atmosphere at the school, as well as its mission.

“There is a lot of history behind the school,” he said. “They are training students to become leaders in the military. It’s definitely produced a lot of leaders outside of the military too, once they get out and go into business, medicine or other fields.”

The strong programs in science and mathematics also help, as he is considering engineering or environmental science as potential futures.

“By the end of your senior year you almost have a minor in engineering because of all of the math and science classes you have to take,” he said. “I am thinking about engineering right now, but that could change. I just definitely want to work outside one day. They’ve got lots of majors in environmental science and naval architecture and a lot of stuff that deals with the environment and working outside.”

Working with the environment sounds fun to Spalding.

“The environment is always changing,” he said. “What you do to the environment, ultimately changes people’s lives and everything around it. It has a ton of jobs, and a lot of new jobs will be created in the future.”

His parents work in the medical field, so he said science has always come naturally to him. He also really enjoys nature.

“I’m a very outdoorsy person,” he said. “I like hunting, playing baseball, getting dirty and just doing everything outdoors.”

Spalding said he’s been playing baseball ever since t-ball. He also played football and basketball growing up, but later decided to focus on baseball. Sometimes sports made it tough, but it was all worth it.

“The fall of my junior year was probably the hardest, as [travel] baseball is very active,” he said. “We mainly stayed in Virginia, but we played in North Carolina some. It wouldn’t be so bad with the Friday and Saturday games, but with a Sunday championship game starting at 4, the game would last 2 hours, and then you spend 6 hours driving home. Those Monday mornings were definitely tough. But you’ve got to get up and go through it.”

Spalding said he felt like studying got easier after sophomore year.

“I think I kind of learned how to study for my junior and senior years,” he said. “I would cut down and really focus on what I needed to study.”

Even though he’s going to enjoy experiencing something new, he’s also nervous.

“July 1 is approaching faster than I thought it would,” he said. “I’m a little anxious about that, but it’s also going to be exciting.”

He’s going to miss Southampton High School as well.

“Since the ninth grade when I transferred from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, I’ve made a lot of close friends and gotten to know the teachers,” he said. “You really got to know the teacher, so much so that you got to be friends with them as well.

“And I’m definitely going to miss the baseball team — it had some real characters on it that make it really interesting and fun. It’s sad that I’m never going to have the opportunity to be with them again, at least not on the baseball field.”